Study Guide

Theseus: The Minotaur and the Labyrinth Characters

  • Theseus

    In his early adventures, Theseus showed everyone that he was a hero to watch. But when he slew the brutal Minotaur, he proved to the world that he belonged on the permanent Who's Who list of Geek heroes. Like many of his fellow heroes, he showed that he was brave and totally capable of slaying even the most terrifying of foes.

    However, Theseus also proved on his Minotaur adventure that he was a flawed human being. When he deserted the Princess Ariadne and later carelessly caused his father's death, he showed he was far from perfect. Of course, he was not alone in this. Many of the other famous heroes like Heracles and Jason had some not-so-cool episodes in their lives.

  • Minotaur

    The Minotaur, whose real name is Asterion, is probably one of the most well known of the many famous Greek beasties. This monster with the head of a bull and the body of a man is the biggest and baddest of Theseus's many foes. Back in the Heroic Age, a hero just wasn't a hero without a monster to slay. The Minotaur is part of a long list of slaughtered monsters. Medusa, the Hydra, the Nemean Lion and more all fell to one hero or another. In a way, Theseus owes everything to the Minotaur. Ultimately, what is a hero without the monster he or she slays?

  • Ariadne

    Poor Princess Ariadne really gets the bum end of the deal in this myth. Even though she makes it possible for Theseus to escape the Labyrinth, the hero breaks his promise of marriage and deserts her on an island. Ariadne reminds us a lot of Medea who helped Jason get the Golden Fleece, only to be later deserted by him. Of course, Ariadne doesn't go crazy and kill her kids afterward, so maybe she's a bit more sympathetic.

    There are a lot of variations on the story of what happens to Ariadne after Theseus ditches her, but most agree that she ended up married to Dionysus, the god of wine. The two had lots of babies and ended up living on Mt. Olympus. Some say that the constellation Corona is named after the crown that Dionysus placed on her head. So, yay, not everything in Greek mythology is tragic.

  • Minos

    Minos, son of Zeus and Europe, was the mythical King of Crete, which he ruled from royal palace of Knossus. Though he's depicted as a bad guy a lot of the time, he also had a reputation as a capable ruler who transformed Crete into one of the major naval powers of the Mediterranean Sea. When British archaeologist Sir Arthur Evans discovered the remains of an advanced Bronze Age society on Crete, he named it the Minoan Civilization after the legendary King Minos. Mythology says that after Minos died he became a Judge of Dead and decided which souls were rewarded and which were punished in the dark pit of Tartarus.

  • Aegeus

    Aegeus is the King of Athens and the mortal father of Theseus. The hero ends up inspiring his father's death when he forgets to change the black sail of his ship to a white one upon returning to Athens from Crete. The black sail misleads Aegeus into thinking that Theseus was killed by the Minotaur and so the grief-stricken Aegeus hurls himself into the sea which to this day is call the Aegean. Besides the myths of Theseus, Aegeus also pops up as a character in Medea, the tragedy by Euripides.